The 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend was a little more special for the St. Louis Blues. Not only were they hosting the League's annual midseason showcase, they were doing it as Stanley Cup champions, having won the Cup for the first time in June.
"Everywhere we go, people are thanking us," center Ryan O'Reilly, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, says early in "2020 NHL All-Star All Access." "There's a buzz around the city, and this kind of just adds to it. Nice to be one of the guys who gets to represent the city."
The behind-the-scenes look at this season's NHL All-Star Weekend, narrated by actor Jon Hamm, debuts on the NHL Network on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET, and on NBCSN in the United States and Sportsnet in Canada at 11:30 p.m. ET.
[RELATED: Complete 2020 NHL All-Star Game Coverage]
Being named to play in the NHL All-Star Game doesn't get old even for players who've been there multiple times.
"I'm just as excited as [I was] the first one," Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, who was playing in his third all-star game, says before walking into the Metropolitan Division locker room.
Getting to All-Star Weekend is special for first-timer Tyler Bertuzzi, a forward with the Detroit Red Wings.
"I think the dream for every kid is just to play in the NHL," he says. "This is icing on the cake."
The NHL All-Star Skills presented by New Amsterdam Vodka on Friday includes four familiar events, including the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater and the Enterprise NHL Hardest Shot, as well as a couple of new ones -- the Gatorade Shooting Stars event, where players try to hit targets from a platform above the ice, and the Women's Elite 3-on-3 presented by adidas.
The women's event, matching teams of the best players from the United States and Canada, draws a lot of interest from the NHL All-Stars as well.
"It's very important for [people] to see just how exciting this hockey is," O'Reilly says before Canada edges the United States 2-1 in the 20-minute game.
The biggest upset comes in the Fastest Skater competition, when Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders edges three-time defending champion Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. Some of the biggest laughs come when Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks puts on a Justin Bieber mask before facing Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who has issued a challenge to the singer via Twitter. Bieber has accepted, but no date has been set.
On Saturday, it's time for the All-Star tournament. After saying, "I don't want to lose against these guys," Atlantic Division captain David Pastrnak has a hat trick to help his team defeat the Metropolitan Division 9-5 in the first semifinal. Having four of the hometown Blues introduced by Laila Anderson, the young fan battling hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis who won the hearts of the team and their fans during their run to Cup, didn't help the Central Division, which lost 10-5 to the Central Division in the second semifinal.
With Wayne Gretzky, the NHL's all-time scoring leader, on the bench as a celebrity coach, the Pacific Division defeats the Atlantic Division 5-4 in the championship game, then takes a picture with the $1 million check that goes to the winning team.
But Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, a member of the winning Pacific Division team, has one more thing he wants to do: He walks into the coaches' room and gets Gretzky to autograph his All-Star Game jersey.
"Every time Wayne's around, it's special," he says. "To have him on the bench and coaching was fun. It got pretty competitive out there, so maybe that's what put it over the edge."
As Kopitar's autograph hunt demonstrates, the weekend reminds players of the rewards of being an all-star, as well as celebrating all that the NHL has to offer.